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Banbridge eco-warrior Laura gets ‘Thai-ed’ up in waste problem in Koh Samui

Is there anything worse than seeing our beautiful countryside strewn with litter? Glass and plastic bottles bordering grass verges, assorted wrappers and packets swinging from hedgerows and all manner of detritus in every nook and cranny imaginable. It is the bugbear of many, but for none more than Banbridge eco-warrior, Laura Hillis.

Laura, who started beach-cleanup movement Too Much Trash NI to help tackle the problem here in Northern Ireland, has recently taken her eco-conscious enthusiasm to a new level, engaging in similar efforts across Thailand.

Speaking to Armagh I, Laura explained how she ended up getting involved abroad: “The Trash Hero movement is something I have been following for years online, they are worldwide and their mission is to create a clean world, free from plastic pollution, using simple but effective ways to engage people with the principles and practice of zero waste.

“Following Trash Hero and sharing the same love for the planet, I was inspired to start taking action myself and that’s when Too Much Trash NI was created.”

Laura travelled to Thailand in mid-March, starting in Bangkok before heading to the North East, to Udon Thani, to visit with friends. Never idle, the intrepid Laura also managed to squeeze in stop offs at Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui.

However, according to Laura – much like home – the scenic surrounds of an undeniably beautiful country are beginning to suffer with “high levels of waste washing up on island shores”.

“I had contacted a couple of the Trash Hero chapters on the islands but they were not currently running regular cleanups as they didn’t have the core team to run the chapters,” continued Laura.

“The Koh Samui chapter are currently running clean ups every Sunday. I was so overjoyed to have been able to join them for one while I was visiting the island.

“Beach cleaning in high 30s heat is something else. It was so, so hot and amazing to see everyone out there every week in that heat taking part.

“A couple of the hotels around the area we were cleaning provided us with drinking water. They were grateful for us cleaning around their beach and I was grateful for them keeping me hydrated!”

Some of the waste collected at Koh Samui

Once collected, the waste is then separated and collected from the roadside by the local municipality recycling team and transported to the mainland.

And, naturally, the locals were very grateful for her support.

Added Laura: “Pookie of Trash Hero and other regulars that attended the clean up on the day were so happy that I was taking the time out of trip to join them for their beach clean.

“I was also grateful and excited to be able to join them for it. Any others that I had contacted in relation to clean ups were also very thankful for me reaching out.”

For Laura, it’s not just about just showing up to a beach and filling a few bags. It’s a way of life.

Continued Laura: “I am always aware of my surroundings and looking after the planet is part of my lifestyle. I always try to stay positive about it too, even if it is sore to look at.

“We can only do so much ourselves, so spreading awareness on socials and carrying out cleans ups keeps me happy about it.

“I think together we’re all getting better at looking after the planet. There is a lot more awareness and action being taken by everyone and it’s great to see.”

Being involved in Too Much Trash NI at home has undoubtedly opened Laura’s eyes to similar issues around the world and she has tailored her lifestyle to support her cleanup efforts, she said: “I’m way more conscious now of my single use plastic.

“I make sure I always have my refillable water bottle, reusable shopping bag and whatever else can that help reduce the use in any way.”

Of her experience Laura said: “I have gained a happy heart with meeting new people and working together with others that share my passions, and doing it in my favourite place to travel to!”

And it’s not over now that she’s home! Too Much Tash NI are now gearing up for their Big Spring Clean with Live Here Love Here at Cranfield beach this Sunday April 14.

They will also continue to host beach cleans throughout the year, of which you can learn more about via their Instagram and Facebook pages. Everyone is always welcome to participate.

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